The Second Annual Legacy at Tremont Homecoming brought together supporters, past campers and staff of the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont for an evening of fun, good food and fellowship.
The Sept. 14 event began with a game of “Bingo” as guests tried to match descriptions of different Legacy of Tremont committee members to those individuals present. Afterward Tremont director Ken Voorhis spoke, Great Smoky Mountains National Park superintendent Dale Ditmanson shared some thoughts and musicians Connie and Mike Clemmer and storyteller Elizabeth Rose entertained the audience.
As guest mingled before dinner, Voorhis shared his thoughts on the evening and said the event was something many folks had wanted to do for several years as a way to bring together everyone, including former staff, campers and supporters, to share their enthusiasm for Tremont. “It was an opportunity for people to build on that excitement,” he said.
Herb Handly, executive vice president for the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau, echoed that the event was a chance to bring back people associated with Tremont. “It’s a great opportunity for those people who came as campers to together with staff,” he said. “It’s a huge community event.”
Among those attending were Helen Fry and Georgiana Fry Vines, wife and daughter of the late George W. Fry, park superintendent from 1963 to 1969, talked about the scholarship she and the rest of her family set up in Fry’s name. The scholarship provides funding to pay the camp tuition for deserving students.
George Fry began keeping a daily diary as a 14-year-old schoolboy in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. His writings have resulted in a 329 page unpublished memoir entitled George Fry: The Legend. Selectively edited by Georgiana, it details events from his childhood and college days in Pennsylvania to his retirement in Atlanta on June 30, 1973. Most of the manuscript is devoted to documenting experiences with the National Park Service, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fry passed away on April 4, 2000, at the age of 89.
After Fry died the family explored different options to recognize his service as superintendent. “At the suggestion of Judge Gary Wades, who was the chairman of the board of Friends of the Smokies, we established the George W. Fry Science Education Endowment at Tremont,” Vines said.
Originally they raised $35,000 but Tremont board chairman Bill Cobble asked them to raise $50,000 as a hedge against a volatile stock market. Family and friends contributed and a dollar-for-dollar match came from Friends of the Smokies, she said.
“I’ve met all but one who got scholarships,” Vines said. “I love to see young people interested in science spending the summer at Tremont as part of their careers.”
Helen Fry said it was gratifying to help the campers. “It makes my heart feel good,” she said.
Board member Dick Ray encouraged the crowd to give to the scholarship fund. “We need $60,000 to $90,000. Our scholarships are what allow a lot of student campers to come who couldn’t otherwise come,” he said.
Former Blount County School Board member Booty Miller said Tremont is important for students in the school year and campers in the summer. “I was here for eight summers through the Youth Conservation Corps from 1970 to 1978,” he said.